Making a splash in sustainable swimwear with Kikakinis

Kikakinis has been making waves across the global swimwear market. Acting as the face of the brand – and modelling the entire swimwear range herself – Kate has little time to spare processing orders, shipping and returns. It’s why she uses Huboo to remove the fulfilment burden and keep her focused on growing her eCommerce business.

The pathway from social influencer to retail entrepreneur has been much lauded over the past decade. Many regard it as a dream career that’s easy to emulate, thanks to reality TV shows such as Love Island. In truth, unless you’re a celebrity with eye-boggling reach and a vast queue of commercial partners at your door, creating a successful retail brand is anything but straightforward.

That’s why, despite a combined audience of more than 1.3m followers across YouTube, TikTok and Instagram, lifestyle influencer and content creator Kate Elisabeth has worked tirelessly and taken nothing for granted on her journey to bring sustainable swimwear brand Kikakinis to the world.

After a difficult physical retail launch, Kate decided to embark on an online-only sales strategy for her new venture, and she hasn’t looked back.

Turning passion into profitable business

Kate began developing Kikakinis back in 2021. She explains that “I’d launched branded goods for my audience before, but I’d never attempted to bring a genuinely new product into the world. Kikakinis began as an idea for a side hustle – something that would tie into my passion for travelling. But as I saw how many existing swimwear products were not sustainably sourced, it quickly became a passion project – an issue I wanted to solve with my own business venture.”

By the summer of 2022, Kate was ready to introduce the Kikakinis brand to the world. Her plan was to mobilise her audience and drum up a feeling of FOMO by hosting a buzzy and bustling pop-up shop on London’s Oxford Street. Unfortunately, rail and underground strikes conspired to prevent many of Kate’s followers from attending, and while was still well received by everyone who showed up, the experience laid bare the sales and marketing challenges of physical retail.

“I realised I either had to get online ASAP, or dedicate 100% of my time to Kikakinis, at the expense of my audience, my brand partners, and everything else I’m involved in,” says Kate. “So I began to build a website and search for a fulfilment partner to support me. I spoke to a few providers, and Huboo really stood out. Not only would they allow me to sell internationally, but they spoke my language and understood the challenges I was facing. With Huboo, it just seemed easier.”

Along with processing and shipping all inbound orders, Huboo has also taken on responsibility for managing product returns – a tricky problem for entrepreneurs who are also in the public eye.

“Returns tend to be less frequent for bikinis than some clothing items because they come in more generic sizings, but it was still a bit of an issue for me as I have to be careful about who I share my address with,” adds Kate. “As I wasn’t in a position to set up separate premises for a brand new business, having Huboo handle any Kikakinis returns was a huge benefit.”

Staying fresh for the summer

Despite Kikakinis’ initial eCommerce success, Kate wasn’t leaving anything to chance. She knew that as the cost of living crisis continued, her young audience might have to tighten the purse strings, not to mention cutting back on beach holidays.

“Summer is obviously the big sales opportunity for swimwear brands, but I wanted to make sure that Kikakinis was relevant to staycationers and people on limited budgets as well as jetsetters,” Kate explains. “So alongside classic swimwear designs, I’ve created fashion-forward products that are perfect for people attending festivals or other outdoor summer events. Huboo’s model means we can start selling products within hours of their arrival at the warehouse – it gives my business incredible flexibility to innovate and try new approaches.”

Of course, brands like Kikakinis cannot afford to prioritise flexibility over sustainability, particularly when targeting increasingly eco-conscious 18-24-year-olds. Kate knew that her customers wouldn’t just take her word on Kikakinis’ environmental credentials; she needed to ensure every partner in her supply chain made the grade – fulfilment included.

“I’ve had customers contacting me asking to see various certificates and really interrogating the claims on the Kikakinis website,” notes Kate. “It’s inspiring to see, but it does mean I have to make sure all my suppliers and partners are up-to-scratch. One thing I love about Huboo is that it ships my products in eco-friendly packaging and takes active steps to minimise its carbon footprint.”

A partner for the long haul

Since moving online-only, Kikakinis has gone from strength to strength and is today one of the most exciting new brands in the fast-growing global swimwear category.

Kate has been able to successfully monetise her existing audiences across TikTok and Instagram, form profitable alliances with other prominent influencers, and build a thriving online store for her eye-catching product range – with Huboo working tirelessly behind the scenes to fulfil each and every order.

“What Huboo provides is a foundational layer of support for my business that can be scaled as I ship to more locations and across multiple channels,” says Kate. “For example, I’m exploring things like TikTok Shop and other social commerce tools, but I’m also thinking about how to get Kikakinis into traditional retail outlets. I can think big because I know that Huboo will be by my side, regardless of where the growth journey takes me next.”

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